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Proċedura : 2004/2157(INI)
Ċiklu ta' ħajja waqt sessjoni
Ċiklu relatat mad-dokument : A6-0378/2005

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Dibattiti :

PV 13/12/2005 - 20

Votazzjonijiet :

PV 15/12/2005 - 5.17

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Texts adopted
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Thursday, 15 December 2005 - Strasbourg
Promoting and protecting consumers' interests in the new Member States

European Parliament resolution on the promotion and protection of consumers' interests in the new Member States (2004/2157(INI))

The European Parliament,

‐   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

‐   having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A6-0378/2005),

A.   whereas a high level of consumer protection and consumer confidence is a precondition for a well functioning internal market,

B.   whereas the internal market has delivered tangible benefits for consumers in the EU, through lowering prices and widening choice,

C.   whereas the EU has ten new Member States, in most of which consumer protection is a relatively new concern,

1.  Notes with satisfaction that, overall, consumer protection in the ten new Member States has developed in a positive way, raising standards, although much remains to be done;

2.  Insists that the internal market will not function properly if consumers are less well protected in some Member States than they are in others; recalls therefore that a high common level of consumer protection across the Member States will promote cross-border transactions and will ensure that consumers take advantage of the internal market;

3.  Recalls also the importance of Article 153 of the EC Treaty, which allows Member States to maintain or introduce more stringent protective measures;

4.  Calls on the Commission to conduct a screening exercise to look in detail at the structures of consumer organisations and consumer policy in the new Member States;

Legislative framework

5.  Welcomes the good record of the new Member States in terms of transposition of the acquis communautaire; stresses, however, that Community legislation must also be effectively applied in practice and enforced; calls on the governments of the new Member States to scrutinise all available instruments and methods in order to identify means by which consumer legislation may be effectively applied and enforced;

6.  Calls for the strengthening of market surveillance structures in the new Member States so that products and services circulating on their markets meet high safety standards and that any defective or dangerous products are rapidly removed from the market;

7.  Points out that child consumers are often inadequately protected against products which could cause damage to their health and well being; calls on the Member States and the Commission to focus particularly on strengthening consumer protection for children and other vulnerable groups;

8.  Calls on the Commission to help improve the performance of, and coordination between, supervisory bodies in both the old and the new Member States, including cross-border mutual cooperation between them;

9.  Welcomes the Commission proposal to review, modernise and simplify the existing consumer acquis, which could prove important in the process of implementing Community consumer legislation and would also make it easier for consumers throughout the EU to exercise their rights more effectively, including across borders;

10.  Stresses that transposition of Community legislation does not automatically lead to implementation as such and that, in order for implementation to be successful, consumers need to be aware of their rights and be ready and able to act as "political consumers";

11.  Welcomes the Commission proposal to develop and update the scientific knowledge base and assessment tools on consumer exposure to chemicals, including with respect to general product safety, and to contribute to the application of the REACH regulation;

Consumer culture

12.  Stresses that the creation of a "consumer culture" based on a higher level of consumer awareness is essential for better enforcement and application of the existing legal framework and underlines the vital role that consumer organisations, consumer protection authorities and business organisations play in strengthening this consumer culture;

13.  Is conscious of the fact that consumer awareness is significantly lower in the new Member States, where freedom of speech and freedom of association were stifled for decades; points out that if a "consumer culture" is to develop, consumers' awareness of their rights must be systematically increased and at the same time it must be made significantly easier for them to exercise those rights; calls, therefore, on the Commission to draw up a specific strategy to encourage the development of a consumer culture in the new Member States;

Consumer organisations

14.  Calls on the Commission to assess the possibility of defining parameters at Community level for what is meant by a "representative consumer association or organisation", to ensure that consumers in the EU are properly and independently represented;

15.  Calls on the old Member States to continue their commitment to support consumer organisations;

16.  Notes that most existing consumer organisations in the new Member States work mainly with volunteers and that they often lack financial resources; calls therefore on the new Member States to ensure that consumer organisations, which are representative, are adequately financed, whilst still upholding their independence;

17.  Points out that in the new Member States it is generally the case that non-governmental, non-profit-making organisations do not have the necessary own capital, that fundraising is not adequately developed and that consumers themselves are unwilling to contribute out of their own pockets to consumer organisations on account of the enduring belief that the state alone is responsible for protecting consumers;

18.  Notes that the requirements fixed by the Commission for obtaining grant support are strict and difficult to meet for consumer organisations in the new Member States, given the professional background of their staff and the funding problems which often make them unable to generate the own resources necessary to make the required financial contribution; calls therefore on the Commission to examine whether these requirements could not be made more flexible, including whether the work of volunteers could be regarded as being part of the financial contribution;

19.  Emphasises that strong and independent consumer organisations provide the basis for an effective consumer policy; calls therefore on consumer organisations to create umbrella organisations and to cooperate with each other; calls also on the governments of the new Member States to foster the creation of fewer, yet stronger organisations through progressive and efficient financing;

20.  Considers that if the quality of consumer protection is to be improved, individual consumer organisations must be strengthened financially, and objective and publicly available assessments of the quality of their performance must be produced; calls, therefore, on the Commission and the new Member States to cooperate intensively both in drawing up such financial rules and in devising measurable indicators of the quality of the results achieved by such organisations;

21.  Calls on the governments of the new Member States to ensure that consumer organisations are adequately consulted at all stages of the political decision-making process and in the implementation of consumer law;

22.  Calls on the new Member States and the Commission to develop and financially support, where possible, capacity-building projects to strengthen consumer organisations in the new Member States by means of twinning projects, mentoring projects and other programmes to share knowledge and information between organisations in the new and in the old Member States;

23.  Calls on the Commission to support intensive training programmes for the staff of consumer organisations to be held in the new Member States and to be conducted in those countries' official languages, the aim being to train a wider base of staff and volunteers working for such organisations and not just their senior managers, with a view to making the consumer movement more effective;

Business organisations

24.  Encourages business organisations and national governments to address the problem that many businesses in the new Member States underestimate the importance and benefits of addressing consumer issues and wrongly consider consumer organisations as adversarial and the strengthening of consumer awareness as a threat to business;

25.  Notes that the new Member States also have to contend with unfair practices on the part of traders from the old Member States, in which such practices are not usually permitted - for example, the restriction of users' rights in the case of goods covered by intellectual property protection, attempts to distribute untested goods from non-EU countries, and so on;

26.  Encourages business organisations in the new Member States to work closely with consumer organisations and to establish voluntary standards of ethical business practices with transparent and effective enforcement procedures, consumer and business educational programmes and fair and effective Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes; calls also on the new Member States to encourage and support these initiatives;

Consumer protection authorities

27.  Notes that in creating a "consumer culture", the new Member States" consumer protection authorities also have a key role to play;

28.  Maintains that the lack of a well-functioning administration in the field of consumer protection, as seen in some of the new Member States, is a serious obstacle to securing a high level of consumer protection; urges the new Member States continuously to develop and strengthen their administrative systems in the consumer protection field;

29.  Urges the Member States" consumer protection authorities, business organisations and consumer organisations to work in close cooperation to promote consumer protection; notes that the smooth running of the market is in the interests of all parties concerned;

Consumer information

30.  Welcomes the creation of European Consumer Centres by the Commission in all the new Member States and the launch of a European Consumer Diary;

31.  Recommends that consumer awareness be given a higher priority in school curricula throughout Europe;

32.  Calls on the Commission to grant start-up funds, in addition to existing assistance, to those centres that provide consumers with cross-border information between old and new Member States, particularly in border regions;

33.  Welcomes the fact that the Commission is carrying out awareness-raising campaigns in a number of Member States and encourages the Commission to devote more financial and human resources to this purpose;

34.  Calls on the Commission, together with all relevant stakeholders, to launch a strategic information and education campaign effectively to prepare consumers for the adoption of the Euro in the new Member States; stresses that this campaign should build on both the positive and negative experiences of the adoption of the Euro among the old Member States;

35.  Recommends the publishing of test magazines by consumer organisations in the new Member States; calls on the Commission and the new Member States, at least initially, to ensure that sufficient financing and training is provided to enable the development of such publications;

36.  Calls on the new Member States to strengthen the provision of information to consumers and businesses regarding their rights and the existing legal framework on consumer policy, in particular by putting in place user-friendly web portals as well as awareness-raising campaigns, surveys, conferences, and information points using national and regional networks;

37.  Calls on the Commission to establish monitoring mechanisms for national consumer policies, benchmarks and recommendations in order to identify best practices, and to develop statistics, indicators and other data of interest to consumers, including a price observatory and quality surveys;

Dispute resolution

38.  Calls on the Commission and the new Member States to extend the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) by involving independent consumer organisations in order to provide consumers with information on available ADR schemes, as well as legal advice and practical help in pursuing complaints by these means;

39.  Recommends that the new Member States widen the use of ADR mechanisms by developing state supported mechanisms and encouraging the establishment of private complaints boards in specific sectors;

40.  Suggests that the Commission undertake a comprehensive study on the existence and functioning of ADR organisations to identify the need for other initiatives and support at EU level which could supplement ECC-Net and which could also be better targeted at the specific situation of the new Member States;

41.  Encourages the establishment in all Member States of independent consumer protection agencies with full power to bring proceedings before national courts in order to protect the interests of consumers;

42.  Encourages the Parliament and the Council as the budgetary authority to consider devoting more financial resources to enhancing consumer protection in the new Member States, along the lines, as set out, of this resolution;

43.  Stresses that the EU institutions should maintain their focus on consumer protection in the new Member States, since there are still serious issues of concern in this regard, as raised by this resolution;

44.  Suggests that the same institutions mainstream consumer issues in their legislative and non-legislative work, taking special account of the specific situation of the new Member States; stresses that it is particularly important to take into account the specific situation of the new Member States in relation to consumer and health strategy;

o   o

45.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments of the Member States.

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